“Tackling climate change is a shared mission for mankind.” – Chinese president Xi Jinping
“We are at the limits of suicide.” – Pope Francis
“Our nations share a sense of urgency about this challenge and a growing realization that it is within our power to do something about it.” – U.S. President Barack Obama
By Miriam Raftery
November 30, 2015 (Paris) –Around the world, an estimated million people took to the streets to call for action to save the planet as world leaders convene today in Paris for an international climate summit. But in Paris, where large public gatherings are banned due to a state of emergency declared after the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks, thousands of Parisians instead brought their shoes, lining them up along the march route in a silent yet powerful expression.
French President Francois Hollande said he cannot separate the “fight with terrorism from the fight against global warming,” adding that leaders must face both challenges to leave children “a world freed of terror” as well as one “protected from catastrophes.”
Pope Francis voiced support for climate change marchers and has urged world leaders to take action to reverse climate change. The Pope told reporters aboard the papal plane, “I would say that we are at the limits of suicide,” Reuters reports.
In the past, China has been a major hold-out, as well as one of the world’s worst polluters. But President Obama announced during today’s summit that the United States and China “have both determined that it is our responsibility to take action.”
Indeed, Xi Jinping, president of the People’s Republic of China, announced, “Tackling climate change is a shared mission for mankind.” Together, the U.S. and China account for 40% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, the World Resource Institute has reported.
Leaders may be getting the message following a 2014 climate march organized by Avaaz in cities around the world. This year, the marches turned out massive crowds in cities around the world. (Photo, right: Avaaz march in London, November 2015)
“For years, politicians have said to us, “Show us that people care and then we will act,” Ricken Patel, CEO of Avaaz, stated in an email to media. “This weekend we’ve showed them that the whole world wants a 100% clean energy deal. And right now a video of us demanding it is screening above heads of state as they enter the conference."
In the U.S., irresponsible reports seeking to deny climate change and block reforms have been promulgated by "skeptics" including some prominent political candidates, primarily in the Republican Party, who have taken large donations from oil and coal industries underwriting the misinformation campaign. The oil, gas and coal industries have funded a massive effort to create confusion and dissuade the public from believing climate change is a serious hazard, much the same as cigarette and tobacco companies funded disinformation campaigns to hide the health hazards of tobacco for many years.
But the consensus of the scientific community – those with expertise to actually study the science of climate change, is indisputable.
Nearly all-- 97% of climate scientists worldwide published in peer-reviewed journals agree that climate change is accelerating at an unprecedented rate, is a serious threat to mankind, and that man’s actions are contributing to the potential point of no return. (Chart, right: climate change since 1880; source: NASA)
NASA has published a list of major scientific organizations that agree on these points including the American Association for Advancement of Science, American Meteorological Society, the American Medical Association, Geological Society of America and others. The site also include links to statements issued by worldwide scientific agencies and governmental bodies: http://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/
In the streets of Paris, over 600 ad posters by artists around the world popped up on display the weekend before the summit, organized by Brandalism. The posters spoof major corporations including sponsors of the climate talks for promoting themselves as part of the solution when “they are part of the problem” according to Brandalism.
A poster spoofing Volkswagen reads “Sorry we got caught,” a reference to revelations that the company falsified emission test results on its vehicles. Others pardoy corporations ranging from Dow Chemicals to Air France. Still others take aim at world leaders; one depicts British Prime Minister David Cameron in a racing suit with an oil company sponsor logo.
President Obama, speaking at the summit, stated, “What should give us hope that this is a turning point, that this is the moment we finally determined we would save our planet, is the fact that our nations share a sense of urgency about this challenge and a growing realization that it is within our power to do something about it.”
The solution, according to experts, is a shift toward clean energy sources such as solar and wind – meaning a shift away from fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas.
Approximately 195 different nations are taking part in the climate summit negotiations. A key challenge is determining how to pay for transitioning toward clean fuels.
Narendra Modi, prime minster of India, a nation heavily dependent on coal, said climate justice needs to allow “developing countries should have enough room to grow.”
Some have sought to have the world’s richest nations help fund the transition for poor countries.
The effort is also getting help from several of the world’s richest business leaders, including Microsoft’s Bill Gates. The group has pledged to double its $10 billion investment on clean energy research and development.
Miriam Raftery holds a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara and is the editor of East County Magazine.